In Venezuela, the true spirit of giving has come through the cruising community in a project named Fundamigos, led by Ellen Sanpere of Cayenne III from St. Croix and Elaine Conklin on Manana. The project involves funding, assisting and providing family help for children born with congenital and acquired facial deformities. Several fundraising events for Fundamigos were organized at the Bahia Redonda Marina in Puerto la Cruz. Venezuela. The support from the marina was most positive with over $2,000 being raised for the children. Volunteers from the cruising community represented some 10 nationalities.
In most countries, the parents have to bring their food with them. In Venezuela, Fundamigos provides them with food, lodging and local transportation. Cruisers in the marina help out in the Operating & Recovery Room, rolling bandages and in the kitchen. Sanpere tells AAS, “The hospital is so overburdened that the children are advised to bring their families to look after them. We wanted to help in this way. Last year the kitchen made 800 meals a day to feed these children with the entire staff donating their time and effort. This year 89 patients received operations.” Ellen and the volunteers brought help to the families and children during the three day mission, making the children’s trip easier logistically and operationally, with everything from translating and cooking to entertaining children bored and frightened by the wait for surgery.
Fundamigos was started in 1989 at the Razetti Hospital, Barcelona, a public hospital by Dr. Ana Velasquez de Manyon, a plastic surgeon. The purpose of the program is to provide plastic surgery service in this hospital for the economically disadvantaged. Fundamigos also provides follow-up and dental & orthodontic care.